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« Which Starters, Relievers are Getting the Most Calls in 2012? | Main | HR Derby Tidbits: NL Edition »

Matt Cain's Fastball: Less Velocity, More Whiffs

Justin Verlander takes the mound for the AL All-Stars tonight in Kansas City against NL starter Matt Cain. Verlander, averaging 94.4 MPH with his fastball this year and topping out at 101.5 MPH, fits the power pitcher archetype to a T.

Cain really doesn't at this point at his career. His fastball velocity has trended down in recent years, going from an average of 91.6 MPH in 2010 to 91.2 MPH last year and 90.9 MPH in 2012. His top-level velocity has declined from 95.4 MPH to 94.4 MPH. Yet his whiff rate over that period has climbed: 16.7 percent in '10, 18.1 percent last year and a Verlander-esque 21 percent in 2012:

Highest fastball miss percentages among SP, 2012

PitcherMiss Pct.
Matt Moore 24.1%
Max Scherzer 23.0%
Lance Lynn 22.5%
Gio Gonzalez 22.1%
Yu Darvish 21.7%
Matt Cain 21.0%
Justin Verlander 21.0%
Ian Kennedy 20.0%
J. A. Happ 19.8%
Wei-Yin Chen 19.8%
MLB Avg. 14.6%


Cain's slower, yet more whiff-inducing fastball bucks the trend usually seen between fastball velocity and whiff rate. The faster the pitch, the more often the batter swings through it:

Fastball miss rate by velocity for SP in 2012:

Velocity (MPH)Miss Rate
90 13.6
91 14.1
92 15.1
93 14.8
94 16.2
95 18.8


So, where is the zone is Cain getting those extra swings and misses? On pitches thrown on the inner half, especially to fellow right-handers. Check out his contact rate by pitch location with the fastball over the past three years:







Cain's miss rate with the fastball on inner-half pitches has increased somewhat against lefties (from 12.1 percent in 2010 to 13.5 percent this year), but he's getting dramatically more whiffs on inner-half fastballs against right-handed hitters (13.6 percent in 2010, 21.1 percent in 2012). Beware, Jeter, Joey Bats, Beltre and Napoli: Cain's can make you whiff inside, modest velocity be damned.

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